Inside the Ropes
FedEx St. Jude Classic
TPC Southwind, Memphis, TN
Yards: 7,239 as per the scorecard
Par: 70 (35-35)
Average green size: 5,420 square feet
Stimpmeter: 11.5-12 ft.
Water Hazards: 10
Course Architect: Ron Pritchard (1987); Renovation PGA Tour Design Services (2004)
Notes: Bermudagrass greens and rough; Zoysiagrass fairways
Winner’s Share: $1,008,000 and 500 FedExCup Points
Defending Champion: Harrison Frazar won for the first time in 355 career-starts on TOUR as he defeated Robert Karlsson with a par on the third-playoff hole.
Date: June 7-10
Notes: The course was redesigned in 2004 and gamers need to take this into account when looking back in history at this event.
The event moved to the TPC Southwind in 1989.
Frazar is only the sixth player in the 54-year history of this event to make the FedEx St. Jude Classic his first-career win. Dicky Pride, also in the field this year, also accomplished this feat in 1994.
As of Monday evening, the field consisted of five players inside the OWGR top 26.
There are 14 major championship winners in the field this week in Memphis.
Eight past champions are also in the published field, including Woody Austin (2007), Bob Estes (2001), Harrison Frazar (2011), Brian Gay (2009), Justin Leonard (2005), Jeff Maggert (2006), Dicky Pride (1994) and David Toms (2003, 2004).
In 54 years of the FedEx St. Jude Classic only four internationals have claimed the championship. The last player to do so was Lee Westwood in 2010.
No player has ever won the FedEx St. Jude Classic and has gone on to win the U.S. Open the following week. Heck, nobody has won the week before the U.S. Open anywhere and followed it up with a victory at golf’s toughest test.
Young Guns versus Old Guns
In 24 tournaments in 2012 the “Young” versus “Old” has seen the “Middle” take over as Tiger Woods strikes again for the not-too-old and not-too-young. The “Middle” guys now have the lead versus “Young” guys 12-10 while the “Old” folks have two wins.
For the “Young”, in order of victory on the calendar, Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24), Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan (29 at the time of his TWO wins), Rory McIlroy (now 23), Justin Rose (31) and Rickie Fowler (23) have cashed.
The “Middle” now has victories from Mark Wilson (37), George McNeill (36), Luke Donald (34), Tiger Woods TWICE(36), Bubba Watson (33), Carl Pettersson (34), Ben Curtis (34), Matt Kuchar (33), Jason Dufner (35) TWICE and Zach Johnson (36) extends their season-long lead.
The “Old” guys that have hoisted the trophy are Steve Stricker (44) and Phil Mickelson (41). They’ll need some serious help down the stretch to get back into this “competition”.
So What? So Let’s Dance!
TPC Southwind has been one of the tougher tracks on TOUR and has embraced its position before the U.S. Open on the golfing calendar. It has tight fairways and smallish-sized greens which make ball-striking, like the U.S. Open, a premium this week. The good news for the field this week is if you can hit the undulating greens in the right spots birdies are readily available. TPC Southwind has seen the winning score in double-figures in five of the seven years since its renovation in 2004. Bermudagrass greens and rough will present an interesting challenge in and around the greens as we move from three-straight events on Bentgrass greens. This is the last chance to
“get it right” on the course before the U.S. Open next week at Olympic Club in San Francisco. Solid ball-strikers and short-game gurus will have the advantage on the field this week in Memphis.
From the GCSAA:
After the 2004 FedEx St. Jude Classic, TPC Southwind closed to under-go an extensive golf course and clubhouse renovation. On thecourse, all the greens were reconstructed and turf was changed from Bentgrass to Champion Bermudagrass. Many of the fairways were narrowed and recontoured. The fifth hole was changed from a par five to a par four. The par-3, No. 8 was completely reconstructed. During the renovation there were 11 new tees added, 15 new bunkers, three new bridges constructed, three ponds enlarged, four creeks stabilized and over 125 trees planted on the course. In an effort to positively increase the environmental impact, 19 acres of native grass were added to the rough. Overall, the course yardage increased 200-plus yards and now plays as a par 70 for tournament play. The par-3, No. 11 is considered to be a smaller-version of the famous 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, but with its own uniqueness. The 165-yard hole requires a short iron over water to a small island green. Prior to being a golf course, the property was a dairy farm with two grain silos and a windmill, which are still on the property.
The TPC Southwind ranked 9th out of 51 courses on Tour as most difficult in 2011, which includes the four majors.
In honor of the “other King”, not Arnold Palmer, but Elvis Pressley!
Zach Johnson: I’m not going to screw this one up again! If I thought he was good enough to be in my top-two his last time out, well, I think I can make some room at the top after his WIN at CPCI two weeks ago. He was off last week to enjoy his victory and hone his game. He has finished second twice and has won in his last four starts. Fool me once…
Dustin Johnson: Johnson made a very solid return last week finishing T19 at the Memorial in his first action on the links since the WGC-CC at Doral in early March. He said via his twitter account if he could find his speed on the greens that he would be just fine. He was T9 in strokes gained-putting and he needed to be as the rust was on his irons (T60 GIR) and tee ball (68th in driving accuracy). With a week under his belt I believe that Johnson, Dustin, will also be ready to fire this week granted he doesn’t try and lift any jet-skis between now and then…
Graeme McDowell: McDowell hits too many fairways and greens to leave out this week. Sure his short-game isn’t where he wants it to be but it hasn’t hindered his performance here in the past (T7 in 2009). In his last two events he’s played he finished second at the Volvo World Match Play Championships and was MC at Wentworth. McDowell should thrive with tight fairways and small greens this week.
Rory McIlroy: The reason he makes this list is quite simple. He’s not the second-ranked player in the world because of marketing or who he is dating; he’s ranked this highly because over the last two years he’s played some amazing golf. That has NOT been the case recently but after spending last weekend, sadly after another MC, at Olympic Club, I would expect McIlroy to be ready and re-focused. TPC Southwind’s fairways and greens will look like Walt Disney World compared to Olympic Club. I believe all golfers when they say it’s a process rather just flipping a switch and it wouldn’t surprise me to see McIlroy turn it up in preparation for next week’s U.S. Open. In his only start in 2010 he finished T29.
Spencer Levin: The one word that comes to mind about this kid is resiliency. After losing his 54-hole lead at WMPO he rebounded with a T9 finish at AT&T the following week. He has lost his second 54-hole lead of 2012 last week to finish T4 and I look for him to rebound again this week. It’s not pretty or stylish but his game is effective and his history in Memphis will make him comfortable this week. After MC in 2009 he’s rebounded with T37 in 2010 and T15 last year. I like the grit.
Golfer’s who games are flowing in the right direction coming into this week.
Ryan Palmer: In Palmer’s last four starts he finished T4, MC, T9 and T5 so finding him on this list should be no surprise. He has one top 10 in four starts at TPC Southwind in addition to three MC. Palmer’s putter is where he does his damage to courses and there’s nothing better than a guy with a hot putter.
Martin Laird: The last time we saw Laird he was scrambling and holing putts while trying to catch Matt Kuchar at THE PLAYERS. Laird was excellent that week as he finished T2. He took some time off but played at the BMW PGA (MC) at Wentworth to knock the rust off his game before heading to Memphis this week.
David Toms: In three events in May Toms finished T15 (WFC), T10 (THE PLAYERS) and MC (CPIC) so his form is nice and steady, just like his ball-striking. He’s second on TOUR in fairways and 22nd in GIR and that, combined with his two victories here should get him ready to go this week. He’s also 14th in scrambling if he’s a bit off with his irons. He has hit the top 10 seven times in 19 career starts. Ding.
Matt Every: He blows unbelievably hot or cold but I am going to ride him this week after his T6 last week at Memorial. In 15 events he’s made seven cuts. Of those seven cuts, he’s hit the top 10 five times. Once he makes the cut, the rest seems easy for him! WD Tuesday morning
Greg Owen: He’s quietly made 11 of 15 cuts this season and has finished T31 or better in his last three starts including T9 last week at Memorial. In his 11 cuts that he’s made, eight of those finishes have been T31 or better. He’s 24th in ball-striking on TOUR.
Blake Adams: He qualified on Monday for the U.S. Open so he doesn’t have that monkey on his back to worry about this week as he looks to build on four-consecutive made cuts on TOUR. His run began with T12 (THE PLAYERS), T56 (HP), T47 (CPIC) and T19 last week at Memorial. WD Tuesday morning
David Hearn: The Canadian has made six-straight cuts and has hit the top 25 in four of those starts including T13 (CPIC) and T25 last week at Memorial. His numbers might not blow you away but he’s decent ball-striker with an above-average short game.
Chris Kirk: His last two events on TOUR have yielded T25 (Memorial) and T5 (CPIC) as he’s now made four cuts in a row. He was eighth in GIR last week even though he was T59 in driving accuracy. He’ll need another performance like that this week to contend.
Ryo Ishikawa: The young Japanese player has an excellent all-around game and he showed that off last week with T9 at Memorial. I’m looking to ride the momentum of his ball-striking and putting last week to carryover this week in Memphis.
John Rollins: He had an excellent run (T7, T25, T24) interrupted by MC at CPIC his last time out so he should be feeling pretty good about where he’s currently at in his golf game. Rollins currently sits second in total driving and is 12th on TOUR in ball-striking. His worst score in his last eight rounds at TPC Southwind is 71 as he’s finished T15 (2010) and T25 last year.
Roberto Castro: Welcome to the list, Mr. Castro. I’ve noticed in your last three outings you have only been worse than par twice and the results have followed. He finished T32 (WFC), T29 (HP) and was T19 at Colonial in his last tournament. His excellent ball-striking (9th on TOUR) will help off-set his less-than-desirable putting numbers this week. Plenty of fairways and greens this week can help take the pressure off the putter.
J.B. Holmes: He finished strong last week at Memorial firing five-under-par 67 to tie the low round of the day. His 67 moved him up 36 spots to T13 for the second time in four starts. The length of this par-70 won’t bother Holmes and his length will be an advantage on the long par-fours this week.
“Horses for Courses”
Robert Karlsson: He’s finished second and T2 in his only two starts here. Karlsson is in this category because he hasn’t had a top 10 since last year’s PGA Championship. Karlsson is in this category because his best finish in stroke-play this year is T20. He loves TPC Southwind, though.
Camilo Villegas: Villegas closed out 2011 on a top-10 tear but that form sadly, for long-term investors, has not carried over to 2012. His best finish of 2012 is T18 (Zurich) and has only three top 25 finishes in 13 events. No matter. This about horses for courses, baby! Villegas is six-for-six with T8 in 2010 and T3 last year. Go on, son!
Fredrik Jacobson: In only nine events this season, Jacobson’s best finish is T13 at NTO back in February. The “Junkman’s” history in Memphis might be the change of scenery he is looking for to get his 2012 back on track. Jacobson finished T3, T5 and T6 from 2003-2005 and has added two more top 20 finishes in his nine-career starts.
Bob Estes: Estes had teed it up 21 times in this event and has hit the top 10 in 33% of those appearances. The wily veteran made noise earlier this season with his T4 (VTO) and T15 (THE PLAYERS) and it wouldn’t surprise me if he hit the top 25 here this week. In his last four starts, he’s MC, T8, T23 and T13.
D.J. Trahan: In his last seven events on TOUR he’s MC, DQ or WD but in his last two events at TPC Southwind he’s finished T15 and T8. He fits this category like a glove; a glove that has been hung on your golf bag and is all dry and crusty. After seeing Romero and Sabbatini come from absolutely nowhere last week nothing surprises me anymore.
Boo Weekley: After his 82 on Thursday at the Memorial, his WD that followed and mixed results in five-career appearance at TPC Southwind, I’ll dig a little deeper this week.
Robert Allenby: His recent history at this event is excellent but his current form is suffering. He’s broken par once in his last 12 rounds and hasn’t posted a round in the 60’s since 68 at SHO. I can’t stretch that far especially on a par-70 course.
Brandt Snedeker: I have no problem with his game or history at this event but I am concerned about his WD with a rib injury last week at Memorial. I’m not a doctor, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but an injury like that doesn’t completely heal in a few days. I know this is a short-field but I would guess if he feels a twinge, he’s going to WD and get ready for Olympic Club. I’m not taking that chance. WD Tuesday morning
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: FedEx St. Jude Classic (Glass’s Picks)
Group 1: Zach Johnson
Group 2: Matt Every Camilo Villegas
Group 3: Roberto Castro
Group 4: Shaun Micheel
Ned said, “…
Ned Brown is a long-time contributor for Rotoworld Golf. He’s had documented success in Yahoo!’s game for years. Even if you’re confident in your selections for that game, give his insight a read. Now, Ned also provides us with his Golf Channel fantasy game selections as well!
Full Disclosure: I am NOT Ned! He’s smarter and better looking!
Zach Johnson-- One of the hotter players on the TOUR right now with two second places and a championship at Colonial in his last four starts.
Charles Howell IIl-- Howell isn't in great form right now, but he played well here last year on his way to a T3 finish.
Spencer Levin, Robert Garrigus, Camillo Villegas
Rory McIlroy-- He is in a slump right now with a steak of three missed cuts, but he is such a good player that this slump won't last long.
Dustin Johnson-- I was pleased to see him play well last week after taking almost three months off the TOUR. Normally I might pass on him here to save a start, but there is such a lack of depth in this week's field that I feel he a good start.
Ryan Palmer-- He is on a roll right now with a T4 in New Orleans, a T9 at the Byron Nelson and a T5 at Colonial. His recent history at the St. Jude isn't good, so this is a play on his hot hand over the few weeks.
David Toms-- For years the St. Jude has been one of his best stops on the TOUR. I was surprised that Toms missed the cut at Colonial, but before that he was playing well with a T15 at the Wells Fargo and a T10 at THE PLAYERS.
Fredrik Jacobson, D.A. Points, Ken Duke, Robert Allenby, Tim Clark, Harrison Frazar
Graeme McDowell-- McDowell comes into the St. Jude with missed cuts in his last two stroke play events, but sandwiched in between is a second place at the Volvo World Match Play. His only prior start at the St. Jude was in '09, when he ted for seventh place.
Martin Laird-- It's a real tossup for me between Laird and Robert Karlsson. Karlsson has a great history at Memphis, but hasn't played well recently in stroke play events. Laird is coming off of a very impressive T2 at THE PLAYERS. I'm going with the hot hand for now, but I might switch back to Karlsson before Thursday.
Robert Karlsson, Greg Owen, Padraig Harrington, Brian Gay, Bob Estes, Jeff Overton
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: FedEx St. Jude Classic (Ned’s Picks)
Group 1: Zach Johnson
Group 2: Ryan Palmer
Group 3: Greg Owen
Group 4: Nathan Green
“And another thing…”
The analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat with GolfChannel.com's Ryan Ballengee on Wednesday at NOON, ET. They will be breaking down the field at the FedEx St. Jude Classic and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.